Los Angeles

Hard Times In The High Desert

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The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.

Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.  read more »

Warning on Road to Recovery: Beware of dumbdowntown.com

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Big cities will eventually get through the recession.

How much help they’ll get from the design-obsessed bloggers who are so anxious to shape urban life is open to question.

Consider the blogosphere in Los Angeles, which bubbled with reports of decapitated chickens turning up all around town earlier this year.

Some bloggers speculated that chickens were being killed in rituals of the Santeria cult, which has roots in Latin America. The speculation seemed on the way to becoming an urban legend.  read more »

Playing with the Big Boys: The Costs of Fruitless Passenger Rail Tours

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In these hard times the New Zealand public is somewhat excited about the travel costs incurred by our Government Ministers and MPs. Overseas travel attracts particular rage and fury.

A particularly galling example is a proposal by Christchurch City Mayor Bob Parker, his CEO Tony Marryat, and an urban planner, to visit the US to investigate the performance of light rail in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Vancouver.  read more »

Glimpsing the Good in Police Chief Bratton’s Goodbye to L.A.

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Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton’s pending departure makes now a good time to give him credit for a habit that draws scant attention amid talk of his traveling ways and unapologetic ego: The guy works very hard at every aspect of his duties.  read more »

California Wastes Its Public Space

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California’s favorable climate makes it a haven for outdoor activity. Enlightened and forward-looking planning has largely preserved the waterfronts for public access and set aside a lot of space for public use and activity. Yet despite this, there are few great urban gathering spaces. This is most obvious in the two largest population centers – Los Angeles and San Francisco.  read more »

Immigrants Are ‘Greening’ our Cities, How About Giving them a Break?

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Debate about immigration and the more than 38 million foreign born residents who have arrived since 1980 has become something of a national pastime. Although the positive impact of this population on the economy has been questioned in many quarters, self-employment and new labor growth statistics illustrate the increasingly important role immigrants play in our national economy.  read more »

Why The 'Livable Cities' Rankings Are Wrong

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Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.

Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia.  read more »

Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs

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Media coverage of America's best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you're seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive "business and professional services" sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms.  read more »

Enviro-wimps: L.A.'s Big Green Groups Get Comfy, Leaving the Street Fighting to the Little Guys

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So far, 2009 has not been a banner year for greens in Los Angeles. As the area's mainstream enviros buddy up with self-described green politicians and deep-pocketed land speculators and unions who have seemingly joined the “sustainability” cause, an odd thing is happening: Environmentalists are turning into servants for more powerful, politically-connected masters.  read more »

Who Killed California's Economy?

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Right now California's economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.  read more »